How can Wilson Audio speakers sound that good if they are using OEM drivers?


How can Wilson Speaker sound that good if they are using OEM drivers made of last century materials? B&W used Kevlar and now Continuum, after a lot of R&D. Magico uses Graphane which is the new Carbon Fiber. 
Would a Wilson Speaker sound better if somehow one could put a B&W midrange Continuum driver instead of the OEM paper driver they use?
gonzalo_oxenford
"Last century materials", sitting here listing to a pair of speakers, not Wilson Audio, made of plywood with paper and silk drivers. So last century but damn they sound good. What sounds best is not always what's newest, sometimes it's what's oldest or somewhere in between.
I'm no Wilson fan but in my opinion the exotic materials used by some companies are about talk rather than performance.  I had B&W for a long time and when I moved on I was kind of angry that the aluminum drivers of my new speakers sounded so unmistakably better than the fun to talk about but not very good sounding Kevlar. 
Exotic and new obviously doesn't equate to better sound. Vintage speakers from Altec and JBL etc. are proof of that. Besides, a loudspeaker is a system whose performance depends on a balance of driver, crossover and enclosure design considerations. You must already know that.
Then again, some ask why tubes manufactured in the 1940s can sound better than Russian or Chinese tubes made in modern factories in 2018.
Listening to a set of speakers made of cheap particle board, silk dome tweeters and paper woofers. They sound amazing! No need for those fancy materials 😉
I think you make a mistake by saying Wilsons use OEM drivers. Sure, they are sourced by OEM companies, but they are also built to very detailed manufacture's specifications.  It's like saying "how can Honda's Formula 1 race cars be all that great when they have the same basic engine as a Honda Accord?"  And many Indy cars are just Fords and GMs, right?   Um...... yes and no..
@grannyring dude you are just so........last century! :-p
I can't but agree. My ca 1975 Tannoy 12" dual concentric loudspeakers, with paper woofer and 2" aluminum tweeter, still surprise visiting audiophiles with their quality of sound. Great soundstage depth, imaging that seems to exceed the room barriers, great clarity, bass, and detail. I never tire of them, and they are listened to for three to six hours daily.

The Wilson Maxx 2's I  listened to were, to me, hyper-detailed and tiring to listen to. This was at a dealer, so I didn't necessarily hear them at their best, but my old Tannoys never disappoint.

Regards,
Dan
It is the engineering ,and No they are not stock at all custom matched drivers to a low tolerence ,and cabinets that have a lot of vibration isolation  materials and cabinet ,and Crossovers are 
very optimized for the drivers parameters .that is what you are paying for. They have not been that successful just stuffing boxes.
Well, I am listening to Wilson speakers now - Sophia 2's.  They sound wonderful to me.  There have been really great sounding speakers for decades, using all manner of materials. Materials can make a huge difference by easing the inevitable engineering hurdles and trade-offs one must overcome to manufacture a non-resonant cabinet, drivers that don't breakup in their passband and can integrate smoothly, etc., but it's the engineering that makes the difference.

Personally, I've listened to the Wilson WAMM, Maxx 1's and 2's, and every incarnation of the W/P.  Never was impressed - hyper detailed is one good way to describe it - until the Sasha. Still a bit analytical, but I like it a lot nonetheless.  But I'll stick with my Sophia's; as one person described them, "The Wilson speaker for people to don't like Wilson speakers".
Depends on what you like
vs
what might be in the recording
some very nice laser analyzers pointed at those paper, silk, etc drivers reveal about 5-10 dB of of of phase junk.....in a non pistonic driver...
junk that is NOT in the signal coming off that 300B
depends if ya want to move things forward
or luxuriate in ?????

Out of phase junk

maybe we need out of phase spell check....
The ScanSpeak Drivers used in most Wilson Speakers are excellent drivers - they could be somewhat customized too specifications set forth by Wilson.  The 4" midrange driver used in the new Wamm is a beyond excellent midrange driver with a foam surround and a paper cone.

In speaker design its always about how well one makes the drivers, cabinet and the all important crossover design work as a whole.

Here is an example of a 40 year old woofer design integrated with a very recent Midrange/Tweeter Driver on a waveguide - this thing will run circles around any conventional speaker using a 1" dome - what ever its made from, and yes I made it :-)

http://pbnaudio.com/speakers/m2-5-loudspeaker


Good Listening

Peter

 

I understand you all. And agree with you. I’m just confused about some companies not pushing boundaries on drivers too.
One thing is to ask another company to develop a driver with a spec. Another is to R&D on drivers, as I understand Wilson Audio does with the their speakers enclosures. Wilson do a kind of crazy R&D with the materials they use on their speaker enclosures. And I love that. But what if they did this also with their drivers?
There seems to be some assumption that a material is just a material regardless of it's manufacture. Correctly manufactured paper has a very high speed of sound while still achieving good damping and stiffness. Wilson used to use a bunch of Focal drivers which are about as far as you can get from paper. Those woven B&W drivers have great damping, but aren't very stiff and they have a rather slow speed of sound. Carbon fiber drivers are extremely stiff and controlling their ringing take carefully consideration. I'm not surprised to see Focal putting flax cones in $10,000 speakers. They have some of the best characteristics of paper and they're stiffer and lighter. Again, old school organic cellulose fibers, just manufactured better. 
OP:
Have you listened to any Wilson speakers? If so, please elaborate.
Kost 

I don’t recall any Wilson with a Focal midrange driver - the first ones used a Seas inverted surround - Focal Kevlar tweeter Dynaudio poly woofers - which maintained through the whole WP thing. 

From the WP5 up the midrange was ScanSpeak 18Wx5x5 and the Focal inverted laminated TI dome. 

Good listening 👂 

Peter


Wilson seemed to love stuffing big Focal W cone woofers in things for a while. All the Alexandria line sports W cone woofers. I'm not terribly surprised Wilson steered clear of Focal mid-range drivers. Focal likes to make mid-range cones rather large and Dave strongly believes in using the smallest driver that will get the job done. One of the reasons I've heard he moved away from Focal tweeters was he couldn't get the to do much below 2000Hz. I have to wonder if part of the reason Wilson moved to paper woofers was because they couldn't get Focal drivers anymore. 
 can do the math ( slowwwwwwly ) and I can figure out why they might have to wire that fantastic  midrange out of phase after screwing it up with a steep slope crossover


Wilson is akin, IMO, to a fully tricked out Corvette. You can make it really fast - even faster than production - and really luxurious. It's super awesome . . . but it's still a Corvette. Front-engine, V-8, there's only so much you can do.

Wilson takes great pains to trick out their cabinets - some of the best in the business in terms of vanishing low cabinet resonances. Also, they really do a good job listening to tweak the passive parts from the binding posts to the crossovers. The end result is an awesome product. But you can only do so much with, what, a 6" midrange made from paper, fiber or plastic. All those gains in the cabinet are given back with the sub-optimal drivers.



or in a midrnge driver frame, magnet, and structure that reflect back 70% of wave...right thru the cone.....

i recall somebodys patent expiring.....

lots of engineers talk a good. game about system engineering.....i know these things on beasts with over a million parts.....

and have been humbled....
Honestly, this is a really funny, but fascinating thread.

Not too long ago, a poster asked why do so many conversations devolve into technology, this post is all about technology, but only superficially. The OP assumes there are absolute improvements in driver performance given strictly by the materials.

So, the answer in my mind is in at least these dimensions:

  1. The goal of the designer of the speaker
  2. The complete performance envelope of a driver is far greater than merely it's material. There are good Be tweeters, and terrible Be tweeters.

So this puts me in an interesting position of answering the OP's question. I'm not a Wilson fan, and yet I am a fan of some of the components they use. The mid-woofer in general is often ScanSpeak, of which I own, and I rank them as superb components. Do I like how they go together in a Wilson? Meh. I think they are OK, but not worth the cost.

Do I think B&W (after Matrix) is all that? Not really.

So, Gonzalo, honestly, I think that you would be well served by making your own pair of speakers. Why don't you find a good kit from Meniscus or Parts Express or Madisound and build your own? I think you would learn a great deal more that way than via this forum alone.

This is actually good advice for all audiophiles: At least once in your life, build your own speakers.

Best,


E

The comparison between Wilson and Vandersteen speaker designs is an interesting one. Richard has designed and now makes some of his own unique, groundbreaking drivers (using balsa wood, a brilliant idea imo), and uses all 1st-order x/o slopes---he is a proponent of phase-coherency in speakers (whether 1st-order filters remain phase-coherent away from the x/o frequencies is an issue of some debate). Dave has drivers made to his specs---making changes to OEM models, and his drivers are, as tomic601 mentions above, wired in opposing polarity (as they are in many other, if not most, speakers). Each also has his own idea of the best way to deal with enclosure issues. (As a long-time fan of planars, I find it amusing the amount of effort is takes to get dynamic speakers to do what planars do inherently. Of course, planars are not without their inherent shortcomings.)

For years, Vandersteen offered only the Models 1, 2, and 3, priced well below Wilson’s products. There were some dealers selling both brands, Vandersteen’s to those of, shall we say, more modest means, Wilsons to the more affluent. But there were (and are) people who can afford Wilsons, but prefer Vandersteens.

With the introduction Model 5, Vandersteen was now in direct competition with Wilson in price. The two men’s designs sound very different; some find Vandersteens slightly warm, soft, and veiled, others Wilsons too bright and analytical. But a dealer selling both faces a dilemma---which does he "push". I know, I know, a product should sell itself; let the customer hear both, and decide for himself. But here’s a little secret (already known to some here): the more product of a company a dealer sells, the more of a "preferred" dealer is he by that company. If a dealer sells $500,000 of Wilsons and $500,000 of Vandersteens a year, he is less valued by each company that he would be if he sold $1,000,000 of either of them.

I had (R.I.P.) a well-known dealer friend who sold both, but told Richard he didn’t want to stock, audition, and sell the upper-priced Vandersteens, only the Models 1, 2, and 3. (The reason being he wanted to reserve the higher-priced range for Wilsons). Richard wouldn’t agree to that (I wouldn’t either), and the dealer and Vandersteen parted ways. I thought the dealer was making a huge mistake, but it was his store, and he was a very strong-headed and opinionated guy. He did sell two planars---Quads for ESL enthusiasts, Eminent Technology as his magnetic-planar choice. It was he who hipped me to the superiority of the ET push-pull driver over the single-ended Magnepan.

My 1977 JBL Century's still kick ass after 41 years.  The first 30 years were driven hard by a Pioneer SA9900.  My 1986 German made Yamaha NS200ma speakers with titanium highs and mids and carbon fiber woofers still sound fantastic.  1994 Polk LS50's are still terrific.  I think older technology is fine as long as the quality and engineering is first rate.
Loudspeakers are the sum of there parts and design not the sum of the materials used in it. Carbon nano tube research on them shows they may be carcinogenic since carbon tubes are nano sized they easily penetrate skin and cell walls. B&W is also bragging about using plywood in the new cabinets over MDF talk about modern. If modern materials were the end all be all in sound quality why do so many embrace old designs? Why are we still even using any loudspeakers with paper, wood, alnico, aluminum, F.C,. ferrites,carbon fiber or rare earths these are all so last century.  
Having dealt with some of the most innovating and respected driver manufacturing firms in the world, at point blank range, with regard to making custom drivers...it’s the depth of knowledge in the lore of the build that is the big deal. New materials are exactly that, new materials. The new material may not be a panacea and is probably not a panacea.

Added to the mix is that we still don’t correlate the measurements back to how we hear, in a perfect manner...so we can get some good measurements..but that may not necessarily correlate back to being a good sounding driver.

100 years later, the basic design of a dynamic driver has not changed.

It is our understanding of the applications of the materials, our understandings of how the driver works, our understandings of how the ear works ---that propel us.

In such scenarios where those (mentioned) aspects change, the 100 year old material and design may propel us forward in a increase in sonic quality, at least as much, or more, than the application of any fancy new material.

However, the new material makes for great advertising fodder, fun little white sheets to read. Cool exploded diagrams with all kinds of labels, and so on. Looks really high tech! Now we’re really getting somewhere! At least in cool advertising, that is.

Useful quantification and weighting is difficult, with so many things going on. It’s actually near impossible to put paper, for example, behind or in front of , lets say, diamond. The number of other variables outside of the material itself, is what makes that be a near impossible task. "All other things being equal" is not possible, due to the entire complex package of designing and executing a driver.

Then you add in all the other aspects of a whole finished speaker package, and you’ve got one huge complex mess. Then you add in the cables, the amplification and it’s reactionary aspects in conjunction with the speaker and all the rest, well....it’s amazing that we have any forms of consensus at all.

Thus, we circle back to trying to impress people with slick advertising about the old, about the new, or whatever the case may be. Whatever demographic the given advert may be trying to catch the eye and ear of. Buy our stuff, watch our dance, we be best buds, we gotcha covered, we be slick, we charm you!...the undercurrent of the advert says silently....

And so on.

Simple integrity, IMO works best, but..oddly enough, it's not the biggest demographic of potential buyers. Advertising is a strange business..... I know exactly how to do it, I just don't like it and balk at the line, when it comes to playing those psychological games.
Was talking with a European speaker rep about a new diecast basket I said cool you mean like hotwheels use? 
@bdp24 phenomenal post!
Seems to me Wilson uses a number of drivers made by MISCO of Minneapolis. They often make custom drivers and have been in business for decades. Experience working with materials is worth something; its often all about execution!
I only have a brief comment to make here, but one i feel future speaker buyers might want to consider.  Foam surrounds do not seem to survive well in wet, sticky climates (like Florida for instance). Apparently they can still be found in some expensive products, as I can attest to from personal experience.  I was able to replace the speakers with identical designs but now the manufacturer substituted rubber surrounds.  I believe some of the Watt/Puppies way back when also used foam and had to be repaired or replaced after a few years.  
FF

That used to be the case, nowadays the foam surrounds should have been treated with "moldcide" which will prolong the life of them.  Its mold that cause them to deteriorate.  Further more the ones on the 4" ScanSpeak driver in discussion is coated on the front side.  The advantage of a foam surround compared to a rubber one is that it does not get "stiffer" as frequency increases which is one reason its being used on this particular driver   

Rubber surrounds too do deteriorate the process however takes longer.

Good Listening

Peter
Materials matter, but are meaningless if improperly implemented. The hugely popular B&W Kevlar mid-range looks fancy and because of their marketing they have sold many of them, however these drivers are far from pistonic in operation. Kevlar alone is ironically one of the worst materials to make a midrange driver out of, as it has a significantly lower modulus of elasticity (in single digit GPa depending on the composite layout) than aluminum (about 70GPa). Kevlar is also pretty heavy in comparison to paper, much less aluminum and PP, and therefore puts a lot of extra force on itself when moving at the incredibly high acceleration a midrage driver undergoes.

So in fact, the "last century" material of paper outdoes the "high tech" Kevlar in both stiffness and lightness. So why does B&W use it? If I had to guess, it's because Kevlar is very strong. I have seen Klippel scans of B&W's Kevlar driver, and they clearly operate almost entirely in breakup (aka non-pistonic). However the high strength of Kevlar keeps the cone together and allows it to take more of a beating (more force, more wattage). Unfortunately, operating in breakup introduces a lot of distortion.

Magico's drivers on the other hand are actually well designed with fancy materials, but they have had to put a lot of effort into developing these designs. The real reason why you don't see more "fancy materials" in these high end speakers is because it's incredibly hard to simulate anisotripic material behavior. So either you spend millions on empirical testing (arbitrarily designing a driver, measuring it, then making a slightly different driver and testing it then comparing the difference), or you find someone who has developed software or has experience in the behavior of anisotropic materials. And even with all that, Wilson and Vandersteen speakers are still competing in the same realm as Magico. So is all that R&D worth it?

Also @johnk , carbon nanotubes are only dangerous if inhaled, they are inert in Magico's application. The same danger is present in Beryllium, as is toxic when inhaled in powdered form but inert when in a solid dome. Additionally, plywood actually is superior to MDF when implemented correctly, as it is stronger and stiffer. However, it is anisotropic, so it is tougher to design with and requires more expensive manufacturing techniques. As you can see there is a common theme here. The reason why so many manufactures use these "old" materials is because they are generally isotropic, and therefore are significantly easier to design with. When your material has relatively constant properties in all directions, your only variable is geometry. 

Also die casting refers to the use of a permanent mold, not to the quality of product being produced. Die casts are used as opposed to green sand or investment ceramic molds because they are reusable and highly repeatable. That's why both speaker designers and Hot Wheels would use this method to produce metal parts.

There is also the whole thing of defining "good sound" and whether or not certain materials actually produce "good sound" or whether we perceive them to sound pleasurable. But that is an endless can of worms that we should save for another discussion. 
Post removed 
Because there is more to the sound of a speaker than just what the drivers are made of. Like crossover components and the wire used to connect it all together. Or cabinet design and resonance. That said, many classic speakers like JBL used pretty good materials in their construction (the paper cones were rumored to use US currency paper, and massive edge wound COPPER speaker coils). I have had JBLs in the late 70's and early 80's that were advanced technology at the time, like the 066 dome radiators that used vapor deposited aluminum for stiffness. Yeah, they are not as sophisticated as the diamond tweeters B&W uses, but sonicly I am not sure the diamond tweeters are a real improvement. I have B&W 803Ds currently and have made significant sound improvements by modding the crossovers (particularly the caps and resistors)  and adding heavy brass footers and solid maple base plates. I recently rebuilt some JBL L212s from the late 70's, and after a complete upgrade of all crossover components and re-surrounding drivers, an A/B listening comparison with my modded 803Ds left me wondering how these 70's era speakers could sound so good in comparison to the B&Ws. It just goes to show that technology for technology sake does not make a great sounding speaker. Marketing departments can have a big influence on how technology is pushed to the consumer, rather than common sense engineering.
OEM is the wrong term. Original equipment manufacturer applies to parts that are manufactured by the producer of the finished product. Your question then means "how can Wilson loudspeakers sound good when they use drivers manufactured by Wilson". "Off the shelf" or "stock" or "third party" is the term or phrase you mean to use. 
SEAS, Scanspeak, Dynaudio, etc. have invested untold millions (billions?) of dollars in R&D, tooling, testing protocol, etc. To deliver the best bang for the buck to the consumer, the logical choice is to design a loudspeaker with third party drivers spec'd to ones own requirements. When manufacturers implement their own completely proprietary drivers, you the consumer pay a huge premium for that bragging right which likely delivers little or no benefit over the famous third party suppliers. The saying "specialize in one thing and do it better than anyone else" applies here. The Scandinavians, by and large, have cornered and captured this area just like the Taiwanese have cornered the market as leaders of carbon fiber manufacturing of bicycle frames. Think of it as market-reality. 
fsonicsmith,
There are worthy exceptions, Vivid for one.
fsonicsmith,
There are worthy exceptions, Vivid for one.
I don't follow you. Are you saying that the buyer is not paying a premium for Vivid's proprietary drivers or that the benefit of the proprietary driver is worth the premium charged? I assume you mean the latter because we all know Vivid loudspeakers are pricey. I am left to ask-how do you know that the benefit over off-the-shelf drivers is worth the tab? It seems an impossible thing to know. Only the developer could know and they will never be objective and neutral on the subject. i agree with those above that say that these alternative driver materials and design features are mostly for marketing-they create the "sizzle to the steak" that makes the buyer salivate and say, "I have got to have those!", while only conferring tiny incremental advantages or SQ improvements that could be far eclipsed by spending the dollars elsewhere. If money is of no consequence like to a Chinese billionaire, I can see going for it. For the rest of us, it makes little or no sense because for all of humankind, it's more a lateral move than a vertical one.
No... OEM does NOT mean made by the producer of the finished product. It only means the company that produced the equipment originally installed in the finished product. So for Wilson, OEM drivers would be SEAS, ScanSpeak, and Focal. 
No... OEM does NOT mean made by the producer of the finished product. It only means the company that produced the equipment originally installed in the finished product. So for Wilson, OEM drivers would be SEAS, ScanSpeak, and Focal.
Uhh, yeah it mostly does. On a Ford, OEM means a fender or bumper cover or other genuine part made by them (though the part may be made for them by a subcontractor). Completely third party parts like tires are not OEM. SEAS, ScanSpeak, and Focal are not subcontractors, they are the equivalent of Firestone, Goodyear, and Michelin. Off the shelf, stock, or third-party. 
fsonicsmith,
Yes, I am saying that in the case of Vivid, the premium paid for their in-house designed drivers is worth the premium. They have pushed the boundaries in driver design, and it has paid off in pure and accurate reproduction. I don't own them, but I have heard them and I respect their achievement.
@fsonicsmith 
How ironic. I know for a fact that none of the parts you named for a Ford are made by Ford. The fenders are made by New Center Stamping and the bumpers by Norplass. How about Denso AC compressors? Those aren't bespoke for any car. They're certainly OEM equipment. The part being bespoke for the product has nothing to do with it's OEM status. 

After about 40 years of audio experience I tend to judge the speaker by the final result which consists of two things important to me: sound and looks.
The designers are making a cake using the ingredients that will achieve their desired results.
Daryl(?) Wilson created the Yvette’s I own(and love) with his own particular vision for the final results. I have zero interest in the drivers he used to create this stunning loudspeaker. I’ve had plenty of exotic tweeters in house and none have exceeded the smoothness and detail of the silk dome tweeter he uses to achieve his goals. I’m pretty sure that it’s not particularly expensive but I trust that it’s the one he wanted.
 I have no particular feeling towards Wilson one way or another but after owning a lot of expensive speakers I’ve never once thought of the Yvette as anything other than a reasonable value in the inherently overpriced speaker market. I bought a package of design details that make the whole and I’m elated with the sound and worry very little about the ingredients that created this superlative product. Just my opinion of course! 
Nearly all speakers are made with OEM parts. Many things are made this way. A lot of the technological sales talk is bogus. For example, all the interest in exotic materials for driver cones is often without mention of the size of voice coil, size of driver, size of drive motor, underhung VC, cooling of VC etc. and we haven’t begun to discuss driver integration yet...

Exotic materials (more shiny the better) sell speakers but motor design and driver integration is often far more important. A simple cone from pulp paper or doped fabric of appropriate size with an expensive drive motor (highly linear and built to extremely tight tolerances) will sound much better than your latest exotic material. The other challenge is to make hundreds of drivers consistently. The more exotic the greater the challenge to build with consistent results. A massive overkill drive motor is going to ruthlessly control a cone and maintain linearity under a broader range of conditions and dynamics. Extremely light weight material cones with small motors often have a narrower operating range - often you see mid range drivers of this type doubled up in MTM designs simply because the drivers aren’t capable enough on their own (yup - they can’t achieve the required loudness or dynamics individually without huge amounts of horrible distortion)

Harbeth is an example of successful marketing of proprietary cone material bla bla. The fact is that this extension of a BBC designed speaker was designed with a major goal - to sound good but to be really cheap to make (hence low cost cabinets). Harbeth do sound absolutely wonderful at lower volumes but crank them and the limitations of the narrow design focus (the radial cone) becomes all too evident.

Wilson make excellent speakers. Usually their mid range is very good. Driver integration is usually good too. And cabinetry is impressive! Often more bass than is necessary for accuracy (but this sells and others like B&W do it too). So many Wilson haters out there and yet their brand (like Mcintosh) has staying power (good resale) for all the right reasons!
Does anyone of you know which drivers the Wilson Sasha-2 is using? A mix of ScanPeak & Seas? Which drivers exactly?

Most Wilsons sounds great, but they don;t fit our interior/house. So looking forward to use the same drivers in my DYI speaker (and offcourse, I will try to learn from their design/enclosure dimensions, ports etc...). 


and the same for the Alexa S2
Good luck with that...
It's a challenge, I know ... and it's about the journey after all :-)
Since it would be nearly impossible to know how their crossover was designed, why don't you consider one of the high grade kits available from PBN, or Madisound? You could still build your own beautiful cabinet if you are able to do that. 
Kit speakers are a better idea than full blown DIY, but they are almost impossible to sell for a decent price and the cabinet finish quality is almost always inferior. Salk Sound and Joseph Audio are basically assembled kit speakers, but done professionally and they have a good resell value.  
You can't spend your life worrying about resale value to the exclusion of other considerations like your own enjoyment and discovery.